Air freight offers a number of key advantages over standard shipping, the most important of which is in the shorter timeframe taken to transport goods by air. The standard timescale for air freight transport is 3 days, as opposed to over a week by ship. For time sensitive cargoes, and when speed offers a key advantage, air freight is well worth the additional cost.
The transportation of fresh goods illustrates the need for quick transportation. The time taken to get fresh produce from the farms to a transport depot may only be 1-2 days. A delay of up to a week for shipping would result in a very limited lifespan for the produce by the time it reaches the shops. Any longer lasting product will run the risk of spoiling or being contaminated during a long sea voyage, due to exposure to corrosive salty air. Transportation delays can run into millions of dollars worth of lost productivity, when workers are dependent on parts and are unable to complete key procedures in assembly lines.
As has recently been highlighted by the modern day pirates off of the coast of Somalia, shipping is not without its risks, and cargo can be seized, heavily delayed, or even lost at sea. Air freight companies offer freight shipping services using largo cargo planes operating a hub and spoke air cargo transportation system, with massive central terminals for the redistribution of freight to the major transportation hubs around the world. This leads to efficient operation of transport routes and easy movement of goods between countries.
Rising fuel costs, additional stricter airport security measures, and higher airport taxes have lead to some air freight companies increasing air transportation costs to what some consider prohibitive levels. Whilst the increases in flight costs have risen, suggestions have been made of profiteering by large companies, although this is always strongly refuted. There are many international transportation companies on the market offering transportation on their own cargo planes, or using a combination of sub contracted carriers in a colossal 215 billion dollar a year industry.